It is a fact, that we are living in an era where the plethora of information often tends to upset society and cause confusion in contemporary man. Every subject – whether of minor or major importance – is subject to scores of interpretations and is often broadly projected or even supported with fanaticism by a group of people in some of its interpretations.
This is acceptable to a certain degree, but only up to the indiscernible point where democracy ends and propaganda, simple untruths or skillful lies begin. Given that the Church is inside the life of a contemporary Orthodox, how can such phenomena – which warp and discredit this spiritual sphere – be eliminated? It is a fact, that there are organized doubts and untruths that are being supported fanatically by certain groups acting alongside the Church, impersonating the Church Herself, and drawing authority from the acknowledged authority of the Church, thus undermining Her and impugning Her, with exceptional harshness.
With these initial thoughts and a sober spirit, I shall attempt to present in the chapters below some simple, clearly set out answers for Orthodox Christians with queries regarding the so-called “old calendar”, as well as the character and the origin of the various groups that are outside the Church which refer to themselves as “Old Calendarists” in our country. Groups such as these appear as members of the “Genuine Church”; they outwardly resemble Orthodox Christians (given that they have the same external characteristics as the Orthodox – ie. vestments, rubric, architecture, chants etc.), however, they project and observe the old calendar, they adopt extreme views on contemporary issues and resort to abusive expressions against members of the Church. They do not comprise one compact group, but many and conflicting ones, under the general title of “Old Calendarists” or “Genuine Orthodox” or “G.O.C. – Genuine Orthodox Christians” or “traditional Orthodox” or “oppositionist anti-ecumenists” or “of the Patrimonial feast-days” or “of the Patrimonial calendar” etc… By the Mass Media they are often referred to as the “rebels of the Church” or as “talibans” or “hyper-orthodox”.
In Greece, the State had decided to change its calendar in the year 1923 and adopt a calendar that would coincide with the dates of the so-called “Gregorian” calendar being used by Western Europe and America for reasons of facilitating commerce, given that Greece was seeking her own economic development at the time. The Church had originally decided to maintain the old calendar – the so-called “Julian” calendar – however, one year later, that is, in 1924, the Church also adopted the change by adjusting the Julian calendar by 13 days but maintaining the period of celebration of Pascha unaltered. This adjustment or change in the calendar by the Church took place without any prior extensive discussion with – or informing of – the faithful. It was imposed, and it had brought on certain reactions by a portion of the population. Over the years – and specifically ten years after the adjustment – a few hotheads aroused a portion of the population against the Hierarchy of the Church of Greece, having been animated by fanaticism and incited in various ways, thus causing a schism within the corpus of the Church – which, albeit diminished, persists to this very day. The reaction of the first schismatics did not relate as much to ecumenism as their successors later alleged (given that ecumenism began to be known much later, during the 1960 decade), but more to the 13-day adjustment for the sake of aligning the calendar. Naturally, the later excuse of ecumenism was resorted to because they realized the uncalled-for excision of a portion of the Church’s body over a simple calendrical adjustment of 13 days. In view of the lameness of the enterprise, they were also nicknamed “dekatrimerites” (literally, 13-dayists), while in the left-wing political area the term “old calendarist” came to imply a person who is hooked on something or is unrelenting, and one who is stuck on obsolete perceptions.
When the schism first appeared, the schismatic old-calendarists had attempted to take over Orthodox temples which they intended to use as fortresses of their resistance against the canonical Church. Intervention by the police force during the 30s to 50s decades (by the already police-controlled State at the time) with the accusation of usurpation of authority had led certain schismatics to the illusion that they were heroes who were standing up against new Diocletians; it had fanaticized them and had rallied them around rabble-rousing individuals who claimed that “the subjugation of the Orthodox to the Pope in Rome is nigh”.
As already mentioned, the Church of Greece had initially decided to not follow the State in the calendar change, thus maintaining a conservative stance. However, the painful impression that the population was left with, on account of the celebration of the 25th of March (Feast of the Annunciation) in 1923 separately by the State and the Church, eventually had its determining effect on the change of calendar by the Church. Thus, the adjusted calendar was introduced into worship in the year 1924, whereas the State had already adopted it one year earlier, in 1923. Either way, Hellenism at the time had far more serious and real problems to solve: the Asia Minor Catastrophe with a host of aftereffects, while in Greece itself there was the sudden influx of two million homeless and in dire condition refugees. The shifting of dates by 13 days – and in fact without even changing the date of celebrating Pascha – was a non-essential matter by comparison, especially if we were to look back at the history of the early Church, when Pascha was celebrated locally on different dates – that is, it was celebrated on a different date in Asia Minor, on another date in Italy, in Greece or in Alexandria and Jerusalem…
A SIMPLIFIED SCIENTIFIC VIEW
There is no such thing as a “correct calendar”, nor are there only two calendars, historically speaking. All calendars err mathematically, more or less. Calendars are a formal, human conventionality; God is Time-less – He is above and beyond Time. The whole matter was undertaken by mathematicians and astronomers, who are the only ones who can specialize in the area. The so-called “old” or “Julian” calendar is imperfect (being the more ancient one); in other words, it can “lose” days far easier than the “new” or “adjusted Julian” calendar – much like an older clock, which can “lose” hours and minutes more easily. The difference between the “old” and the “new” calendar is 13 days – analogous to a clock that is “losing time” and has been “brought forward” to show the correct time.
The adjusted Julian calendar that is in use today is not fully aligned with the Gregorian calendar that is in use by the Roman Catholic West, because it coincides only with the calendrical dating (Menologion) and not the Easter dating (Paschalion). In simpler words, the calendar may have the same days as the Gregorian one in name, but in its religious content, it has a different Paschal dating. After the year 2100, the difference between the Julian (old) calendar and the adjusted Julian (new) calendar wi;; become 14 days, as the “old” one will continue to “lose time” much faster than the new or the amended one.
THE USEFULNESS / PRACTICAL ASPECT OF THE CALENDAR CHANGE
In 1924 the Church had counter-proposed to the State to return to the old calendar, however for the State this change was not a negotiable one; it was deemed a necessary change. Ecclesiastically speaking, the coinciding of the political and ecclesiastic calendars actually catered to the people’s liturgical needs. The choice of the “new” calendar by the Church was a result of both necessity and “oekonomia” (providence). For example, in Greece, if the Church had adhered to the old calendar while the State observed the new one, the 25th of March would first be celebrated as the Day of Proclamation of the 1821 Revolution (against the Turkish Occupation), and 13 days later, the 25th of March would be celebrated separately as the Feast of the Annunciation of the Theotokos (which was the case in the year 1923)! Furthermore, instead of being able to celebrate a major holiday in church, one would have to go to work, given that it would not coincide with a public holiday. By unifying the two aspects, those problems were overcome. Besides, according to the instructions of the Apostle Paul himself, the Church incorporates Herself into societies; She caringly upholds and condescends to the institutions and the needs of the people and does not force Herself dynastically with Her own rules and regulations, be they called “calendars” or anything else.
ALIENATION FROM THE CHURCH BECAUSE OF THE CALENDAR
In 1935, the first organized alienation from the Church made its appearance, with the arbitrary cessation of commemoration of canonical bishops of the Holy Synod of the Church of Greece by certain individuals and the “migration” of the excommunicated ones to the jurisdiction of another, seemingly ecclesiastic administration comprised of defrocked, former priests. The initially simple and conventional matter of changing to – or the adjustment of – the calendar had now been turned into a major theological and dogmatic issue by the three “champions” of old-calendarism. Those excommunicated in 1935 almost immediately (specifically, in 1937) split amongst themselves, thus beginning the course of endless divisions that old-calendarism is plagued with to this day, which has resulted in what the old calendarists themselves refer to as “the Orders of the Old Calendar”.
The (mere two) post-1937 old calendarist groups have today become more than 12, on account of successive splintering, defrocking, rivalry, walling-off, and anathematizing (!) of each other. We could indicatively mention several of those splinter groups: the Matthewites of Kyricus, the Matthewites of Andrew, the Matthewites of Nicholas, the Objecters or Cyprianites, the Florinians of Kiousis, the Florinian Makarites, those of Athanasius of Larisa, the Archangelites of Michael, those of the Ukrainian schismatics, as well as various other offshoots and independent groups…. None of the aforementioned groups have any “ecclesiastic” communion among themselves; in fact, they are even divided on account of theological or seemingly theological differences, as well as administrative ones and at times even personal ones. The scholastic element that distinguishes them, as well as their Protestant-style exaggerations – their obsession with the “letter of the law”, with “the tree, not the forest”, combined with an obvious abandonment of God – have led them to continuous splintering, segmental re-unifications and re-splintering, as well as into theological delusions. In the midst of this supposedly “spiritual” Babylon, none of the old-calendar groups has canonical priesthood or valid sacraments. Their religious rites only have a legal – not spiritual – recognition, given that the “baptisms” and the “religious weddings” that they perform are merely recorded in city registers. All those who are outside the Church – regardless how much they might claim to be a “Church” or resemble the Church – have no sanctifying sacraments; they are “rafts, which have abandoned the Mother Ship of the Church and are adrift on their own in the ocean.”
CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SCHISMATIC PHENOMENON
The old calendar phenomenon also has political, leadership-oriented, family-centred, person-centred and topical characteristics:
because it originates wholly from right-wing exremists, while even today, the main corps of its followers comes from the area of xenophobia and nationalism – characteristics that are a far cry from the purpose and the character of the Church of Christ.
both because it harbored the bitterness of some who had not risen to opportune administrative positions in the Church, and also because this movement had -and still has- an exceptionally large number of aspiring “leaders”. Even today, the number of “archbishops” and “bishops” and followers is very disproportionate. Quite frequent is the phenomenon of defectors of one old calendarist group who found a new group, placing as their leader the spurned or supposedly “dissatisfied” individual – or the defector “for serious dogmatic reasons” (as they are always referred to).
because quite often, the “synods” that are formed are comprised of family members – for example uncles and nephews – whereas the followers of the various old calendar groups nowadays consist of the broader family circle of the current “hierarchs” of each group – of the many that have sprung up ever since.
because a relatively large number of otherwise well-meaning followers of old calendarism tend to remain attached to the specific person of a so-called “hierarch” and they follow him blindly, along paths that are outside the Church, with the illusion that they are par excellence the ones who are “inside” the Church.
because the epicenter of old-calendarism can rightfully be placed in the Mesogia region of Attica.
NUMERIC DEVELOPMENT OF OLD CALENDARISM TO THIS DAY
Of the initial instigators and supporters of the 1935 old calendar movement, the majority returned, repentant, to the Church when they realized how improper and non-essential their movement was, while the unrepenting minority were either defrocked by the Church if they were clergy, or, if they were laity, they simply remained followers of the schism. Of the laity, the majority of those who had initially been drawn into the delusion of the schism soon returned to the canonical Church, who tended to them with love and leniency. The leaders of the group that ended up in a schism were eventually only two: the former metropolitan of Florina, Chrysostomos Kavourides and former priest Matthew Karpathakis (or Karbadakis), who also parted ways, just two years after their voluntary excision from the Church i.e., in 1937. They similarly led their followers into division. In fact, the champions of the schism had named their excision from the Church (and the leaders of that schism) the “undertaking of a sacred struggle” – a characteristic sign that they had become deluded. Kavourides’ group soon ran out of bishops and priests, and had to seek spiritual cover outside Greece , albeit anti-canonically. Karpathakis’ group initially “ordained” “bishops” anti-canonically, however it too sought spiritual “legalization” later on, outside Greece – again anti-canonically.
The excision from the Church and the unapproved by a pertinent Holy Synod, improvised “ordination of bishops” did not solve the problem of the schism which had now been wrought: the Old-Calendarists had, as a tragic result, now placed themselves far outside the Church and lacking in Apostolic Succession – an important element, along with the Upright Faith. for the presence of the Holy Spirit during the performing of sacraments. Their “priests” were in their entirety either defrocked or without any ecclesiastic ordination. And the same applies to their successors today. To this day, they perform “religious rites” in old-calendarist temples, which, according to the Church and Her canons, have only the form but not the essence, as they externally resemble the Orthodox temples quite remarkably, but are deprived of spirituality and sanctifying grace – which was the tragic result of the voluntary excision of the rasophore (cassock-wearing) old calendarists from the Church. Simply put, every sacrament has a visible or material aspect as well as an invisible or spiritual one, therefore, one can easily perceive what does and what doesn’t happen inside an old calendarist temple, despite how the temple and the rasophores inside it may resemble a proper Orthodox temple and priest. It is a fact, that a large part of the events that take place inside a canonical Orthodox Christian temple is spiritual and transcends the human level, and as such, invisible.
At any rate, many people came to realize the impasse lurking in Old Calendarism, in 1950 and 1951 with the revelation of scandals such as the torturing of children, the misappropriation of properties and financial scandals in the monastery of Keratea, Attica, and the sentencing of the self-styled “abbess” Mariam to life imprisonment. Furthermore, as the expresser of obscurantist and extremist views on the Orthodox Faith, old calendarism began to lose followers with the rise in the standards of education and living of the Greek people, and the general recession in illiteracy during the 50s – 60s and 70s decades. Until that time, it had remained stationary. From the 80s decade and after, old calendarism lost a large portion of its followers on account of the huge internal rifts and divisions that had appeared in almost all of its groups. In Greece there has not been any systematic registering of old calendarists, however their numbers definitely do not exceed 40 to 50 thousand in all, according to a 2001 report by the State Department, and even they are mainly individuals of older ages. The common folk, who out of ignorance or misinformation have aligned themselves with these old calendarist groups, are now slipping away and are gradually incorporating themselves in the Church once again. As a matter of fact, there is a host of schismatic “clergymen” who, in the face of the old calendarist impasses, have approached the Church and have become canonically ordained. The phenomenon of the return of former, schismatic laypeople and so-called “clerics” to the Church is a strong one, but it is systematically being suppressed by the old calendarists. The only thing that they “advertise” is the transition of so-called “clerics” from a foreign group to theirs, given the prevailing, extremely intense opposition that exists among them – quite often more intense than the disputes that they raise with the canonical Church.
THE STRUCTURE OF SCHISMATIC GROUPS
The old calendarists have placed themselves – or have been drawn there by others – outside the Church; they do not participate in Her Sacraments and they have no communion with Her, therefore we cannot regard them as belonging to the Church. They can only be referred to as a non-Orthodox Christian community, in spite of their many external similarities to the Church and in spite of their own conviction that they are within the Church. In spiritual terms, we could speak of Orthodox-looking, para-ecclesiastic groups that lack the canonical ecclesiastic hypostasis. having only the numerous external Orthodox characteristics. The ecclesiastic canons regard such congregations of faithful who are distanced from a local, canonical bishop as “conventicles” and reserve extremely severe reprimands for the laity and defrocking for the clerics who might be the cause of schisms or participate in them. For one to rend the Church is an extremely serious issue and one that both the Apostle Paul as well as contemporary saints such as St. Nectarios of Aegina have preoccupied themselves with.
One could mention that schismatics can easily return to the canonical Church with repentance and awareness, provided that their “priests” agree to a proper ordination and the remaining members agree to be chrismated – which is already taking place quite frequently, when it doesn’t stumble against human egotism and a fruitless adherence to unstable religious forms. We are obliged however to juxtapose at this point the often innocent piety of certain old-calendarist laypeople to the stance and the pursuits of their leaders, and to underline that the former are usually not aware that they are in a schism.
The ordinations of “priests” that the old-calendarists invoke are entirely without substance. The most basic of the “initial” old-calendarist groups are referred to as “Florinians” and “Mathheans” respectively, however there are other groups also – which are offshoots of theirs – as well as the other independent groups and the “grafts” from abroad.
a. The “Florinians”
…invoke a document of ordination of 1960 by Acacius Pappas (an old-calendarist “hierarch”), which has been signed by only one bishop and issued without any conciliar instruction: an entirely anti-canonical action by the “Synod in America of the Russians of the Diaspora” which at the time was in an ambiguous state of communion with the Orthodox Churches. In fact, this “ordination” of a “bishop” for Greece took place in secret and beyond regional jurisdiction (ie, in America, and not in Greece) by the aforementioned “Synod of Russians of the Diaspora”. The “Florinians” maintain that this synod is their maternal synod and that this “ordination” was later (in 1969) recognized as a valid one. However, the Synod of Russians of the Diaspora has now been canonically incorporated in the corpus of the Church, through the Patriarchate of Moscow, after having restored full ecclesiastic communion with it, and it no longer recognizes priesthood within any old-calendarist group, nor does it have any parish of its own within Greece today. Nowadays, the “Florinian” sub-groups range between “quite conservative” to “conciliatory” as compared to the canonical Church.
b. The “Matthewites”
…draw their “ordinations” from the initial “ordination” by one person only (and him defrocked, long ago – again, an equally anti-canonical action), namely, Matthew Karpathakis: a former priest, who in his very old age decided to leave old-calendarist successors behind him, since (in his opinion) there were no more Orthodox bishops left in the world! At any rate, his successors doubted their ecclesiastic canonicity and hastened to be covered by the aforementioned American “Synod of Russians of the Diaspora”, but were also unable to achieve ecclesiastic “legalization”. Nowadays, the “Matthewite” sub-groups are hyper-conservative, rigid and absolutely hostile towards the canonical Church.
c. The various independent groups
…do not state where their “ordination” originates from, or they are wholly “improvisational” – in other words, “self-ordained”! Nowadays the “independent” sub-groups display a wide range of stances with regard to the canonical Church.
d. Those coming from the schisms of the former Soviet Union.
Recently, certain new, autonomous groups of old-calendarists have cropped up; these are the offspring of – and the interventions in our country by – the major ecclesiastic schisms which unfortunately persist in the Ukraine or Moldova and generally in the former Soviet Union. They invoke their “ordinations” by mainly Ukrainian schismatics. Nowadays these “grafted” groups that originate from abroad have not yet expressed themselves with regard to the canonical Church.
The old calendarists base the validity of their “ordinations” and their “sacraments” in the dogmatically and logically stale argument that “the Orthodox Church automatically ceased to exist in Greece, or, quite possibly, even in the entire world, after the change in the calendar”! Naturally, if something like that were the case, Divine Grace would have been withdrawn in general from the Church (and from the old calendarists as well, since they too used to belong to the Church up until 1935); in other words, Christ’s opus and the existence of the Church would have been annulled on earth, because the Church in Greece allegedly “polluted” all the other local Churches in 1924, just by correcting Her calendar by 13 days!
Generally speaking, all old-calendarist ordinations are entirely void spiritually, as extra-territorial (outside any spiritual jurisdiction), having originated from unauthorized, defrocked and lay persons; having originated from one (or two) individuals, without the knowledge and the approval of the authorized holy synod, or originated from schismatics. From a legal aspect only, some of those “sacraments” have been recorded in the state registers, but, as already stressed, they have absolutely no spiritual, sanctifying and essential hypostasis..
THEIR CURRENT STANCE TOWARDS THE CANONICAL CHURCH
Our contemporary old-calendarists – as we have mentioned – have split into many, conflicting “ranks” (according to their own terminology) and amongst them prevails an administrative, legal, ecclesiological and spiritual chaos. This chaos has never been harnessed – not even by the State – so that rules might be placed within their religious identity. Their “ranks” have no spiritual communion with any of the Patriarchates of Constantinople, Alexandria, Jerusalem, Antioch, Moscow, Serbia etc., or even the other, local Churches – for example the Church of Greece, of Bulgaria, of Romania and the Holy Mountain – despite the fact that many local Churches continue to observe the old calendar! They each (almost every “rank” for itself) regard themselves as being the only Orthodox upon the earth, or that they are the last few “genuine” Orthodox in the world! This phenomenon of zealot adherence to the uniqueness and the genuineness can be explained sociologically, while it is also found among the equally fragmented Protestants.
They present fanaticism and extremeness in their displays of faith, an aggressiveness towards the canonical Church, and more so towards opponent old-calendarist factions, and a heightened persona-devotion and a clinging to specific leaders. In the words of one of the old-calendarist factions, “persona-worship is the sickness of old-calendarism”. And then the degree of acknowledgement by the old-calendarist leaders of the Sacraments of the (canonical) Church varies exceptionally: some regard them as valid, while others regard them as valid under certain conditions, and yet others, entirely void!
Nowadays, the sparsely manned old-calendarist realm is – on the one hand – in a phase of introversion and a quest for an identity (on account of its multiple fragmentation) and on the other hand, in a phase of intensified attacks against the Church, through the use of the internet and some of the mass media. These attacks are being pursued whilst the matter of the old calendar has now been given second place in importance, over-stressing the problem of ecumenism, prophesying about the Antichrist or the End of Time, and denouncing the Church for Her recent choices, in their egotistic contradistinction to the supposedly “patristic” stance of old calendarism. They present themselves as “confessors”, as “the guardians of Tradition” and they tend to generally make themselves into heroes – as in the case where they seized and took over the Esphigmenou Monastery on the Holy Mountain. But let us not confuse the confessor-Saints like Mark of Ephesus or Maximus the Confessor with these modern, deluded, schismatic old-calendarists, even though they declare themselves as their successors. In many cases, their polemics against the (canonical) Church by far outdoes the aggressiveness and the rhetorical power of others – for example the so-called “Jehovah’s Witnesses” or the Protestant “Pentecostals”. They exhaust most of their rhetoric – not in the preaching of the Word of God – but in accusations against prominent bishops of the Orthodox Church of Greece and the Ecumenical Patriarchate. And yet, they do not reject common prayers -inside their own temples- with members of the Church of Greece, which they regard as heretical the one moment, and at other times as “schismatic, or as “in custody”.
One of the favourite topics of old calendarists – made evident in magazines and homilies of theirs – is the invocation of “prophecies” pertaining to the end of the world; they also systematically accuse the bishops of Greece of being “traitors to the Faith” and they even sully the respectful honoring of certain more recent saintly figures of Orthodoxy. Not only do they not accept as enlightened ones such saintly Elders as fr.Jacob Tsalikis, Paisios of the Holy Mountain, fr. Filotheos Zervakos, the Elder Porphyrios, fr, Joseph Spilaeotis (the “cave-dweller”), fr.Theocletus Dionysiates, fr. Ephrem Katounakiotes and fr. Christopher Katounakiotes (=of the “Katounakia” desert of the Holy Mountain), fr. Christoforos Papoulakos, fr, Gerasimos the Hymnographer of the Minor Aghia Anna Skete of the Holy Mountain, fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos, e.a., they even speak of them in the most derogatory manner, they refer to them as “sorcerers” or “fake saints” and other names. They do not recognize Saint Nicholas Kavasilas, the neo-Martyr Saint Chrysostom of Smyrna, Saint George Karslides e.a. as Saints, while a minority of old calendarists do not even recognize Saint Nectarios of Aegina as a Saint.
Unfortunately, many of the leaders of the various groups of the old calendar are often lacking in basic theological knowledge; rather, they are characterized by semi-literacy, ill will and fanaticism – elements that lead them even into heretic teachings, while their outside-the-Church stance is anti-Patristic and anti-ecclesiastic, from its very foundations! Obvious delusions and deviations from Orthodoxy can be observed in many schismatic groups, especially in matters of God’s Triadic status, in the characteristics of Orthodoxy (upright belief) and orthopraxis (upright practice), in hagiography and in the interpretation of Apostolic Canons. Several of the more prominent individuals of old calendarist groups have proven that they have a special fondness for the Mass Media, in which they frequently appear as authors of articles or even present themselves as persecuted and as the only “genuine Christians” – with the obvious intention to attract followers – by appealing mainly to the sentiments of their readers or viewers. Both in the past and likewise in our day, the continuance of their existence – as “independents” or “rebels” of the Church – is dependent on the people’s love for the Church, as well as the ignorance that abounds in the world as to what old calendarists are. Put simply: People usually are not aware that these groups are outside the canonical Church (in a schism) and they often become followers because they have confused them with the canonical Church. A host of scandals – of a sexual and financial nature – which have every now and then preoccupied the Mass Media to the detriment of the Church, have often originated from within schismatic old-calendarist circles but have been ascribed to the Church, precisely because of the immense confusion on the issue. Those who have become thus involved have also found themselves in court cases of physical violence against members of the Church, and also in cases of criminal law and financial scams – as in the case of the seizing of the buildings of the Esphigmenou Monastery of the Holy Mountain, in total disregard of the decisions issued by the Court and the Sacred Community of Athos. In any case, the persistence in a schism is a far cry from the true Orthodox ethos.
In our day, we also find “old-calendarist professionals”, who exploit the piety and the simplicity of the people on the one hand, and on the other hand, there is the vague and not State-monitored status quo regarding the founding of old-calendarist “monasteries” and “temples” by upstart rasophores or self-appointed “G.O.C. bishops”. Of course there is no lack of organized old calendarist ranks/unions, complete with charters and elementary principles of operation; however, they too are still in a state of schism – with everything negative that this entails with regard to the spiritual hypostasis firstly of their “bishops” and their leaders and secondly, to the spiritual hypostasis of the simple folk who wish to live the Orthodox way but are led astray in matters of the Faith. It has been observed that a portion of the “clergy” of many old calendarist groups has at times consisted of people who were once Priests of the Church but were defrocked for severe moral or other misconduct and who egotistically refused to obey the decisions of the Church and “discard their cassocks”; instead, they went on by pretending to still be priests, after having resorted to old calendarism. It is a fact that spiritual disorder does not bring peace to a person, while disobedience and mutiny in the Church signifies disobedience and mutiny towards Christ Himself, Who is the Head and the Cornerstone of the Church.
DIFFERENCES BETWEEN OLDER AND RECENT OLD CALENDARISTS
The champions of the old-calendarist schism did not have in mind – nor could they foresee – the present anarchic and chaotic situation, with the founding of new, supposedly genuine (!) “orthodox churches”. This can be seen, when researching their letters and writings up to that time. They initially had in mind to cease the commemoration of the bishops of the Church in Greece, to object to the change in the calendar, and to restore the 13-day difference between the two calendars. The situation worsened, following the disagreement between the two, last remaining leaders of the old calendarists – ie, the defrocked, former clergymen, Matthew Karpathakis and Chrysostom Kavourides – as to whether they regard the sacraments of the Church of Greece as truly valid, and if the Church of Greece is in fact their “mother-church”. That was when the term “Grace-less sacraments” was introduced by Karpathakis, while Kavourides had recognized the sacraments of the Church as assuredly valid, and also the Church of Greece as the maternal church.
It was through their organizing a particular kind of religious community that was alienated from the Orthodox Church, by both Karpathakis and Kavourides, that the old-calendarists have come to the present, nonsensical state of radical disagreement and excision from the Church, along with the fragmentation and the continuous creation of new and opponent factions of old calendarism, and polemic rhetoric against the Church. Yet another (vast) difference between the original and the many contemporary leaders of schismatic groups is that the former were usually under one delusion, due to an inadequate knowledge or appreciation of matters, whereas the latter in most cases are fully aware that the excision from the Church was unfounded and unreasonable, however, they persist in the schism, by concocting unfounded and seemingly theological excuses and reaping leadership, personal or other benefits.
ABRIDGED OVERVIEW OF OLD CALENDARISM
In summary, we can keep the following points in mind with regard to the old calendarists:
They are in a schism with the Church and their leaders strive to preserve it, with every possible means. The same applies to the schisms between old-calendarist groups. They are outside the Church of their own volition, and they present various delusions and deviations from the dogmas of the Church on account of their fanaticism, their semi-literacy and their scholasticism.
We are not looking at a unified corpus of old calendarists, but a pleiad of assorted and conflicting para-ecclesiastic groups.
They lack essential theological knowledge and are noted for fanaticism, censuring and hostility – especially among the lead team of each group, which bears most of the responsibility for the preservation of the schism.
They do not have canonically ordained priests that are recognized by the Church, nor do they transmit valid sacraments.
Their rhetoric is exhausted in nonsensical, anti-ecclesiastic polemics instead of God’s Word of Love. They present themselves as the last actual Orthodox Christians on earth (or at least, among the last).
The first old calendarist schism which was created in 1935 may be waning rapidly from the aspect of followers, is also deepening and gradually becoming less and less remediable, especially on the part of its various “archbishops”, while it continues to maintain characteristics of fanaticism and blind self-justification among its members – usually those of an advanced age.
The worldwide Church uses the old calendar mostly (for example Russia, Serbia) and the new calendar less (for example Greece, America). And yet, there is no problem in the communion between the local Churches because of such an external characteristic.
To distinguish between old-calendarist temples and canonical Orthodox ones so that we do not participate in the former, we can ask around and find out if they belong or not to the local Orthodox Metropolis and if they do in fact have communion with the Church of Greece and the Orthodox Patriarchates.
The Church cultivates love towards every person, without exempting Her children who have strayed into heresies and schisms. In this way, She is willingly embracing the return of former old calendarists to the canonical status, and treats them with providence and love.
Schisms have never been absent from ecclesiastic history. From Nestorianism and Monophysitism, through to uncritical zealotism or old-calendarism – and with a “mindless zeal” – schisms have their own cycle, initially attracting a number of people, up until they are eventually re-incorporated in the Mother Church. The Church has irrevocably opined and has responsibly informed Her children on this matter also.
A solution to the problem is the personal distancing of old calendar followers from the schism, and their canonical incorporation in the Church, even if, for reasons of oekonomia (providence), they request to be incorporated in parishes that observe the old calendar – a point that the Church has acquiesced to, locally.
What is imperative for each one of us is to conscientiously participate in the life and the Sacraments of the Church, and through them, strive to approach the beloved countenance of Jesus Christ….
May the Lord intervene so that all our misled brethren return to the Church, put an end to their deprivation of the Body and the Blood of our Lord, cease to sully and wound the Body of the Church or lead others astray into schisms, who may quite possibly be dissatisfied and scholastic or faithful and well-meaning….
Quotes from books and web pages:
«… Sailing alongside the Ark of the Church are certain pirate ships. The largest one has the Pope as its captain, who has been trying to take over the Ark of Orthodoxy and become captain by expelling Christ. Next to it are other pirate ships and rafts. Among them there is a string of 5-10 small fishing boats (that is how many its larger groups are), then there is the rotten ship of zealotism with its black flag that says “Orthodoxy or Death” on it. The Zealots’ profession is fishing, which is why it has to take place in the dark and is therefore always nocturnal. The fish that they catch are those who slip out of the Ark of the canonical Church. They become dizzy from the tempests caused by the scandals of the Church; they lose their balance and fall into the water. Then the trawler that is tailing them fishes them out. It promises them that it will take them directly to Paradise and that it was a stroke of good fortune that they had fallen out of the Ark of the Church.»
[Excerpt from the book «The crisis of the Church in Greece – the trap of Zealotism», by Monk Michael, DORKAS publishers.]
«…If we haven’t acquainted ourselves with the light of Grace, we say that we are fine in the half-light. In the light, our reality is revealed. In the Light, the Truth of the Church will be revealed. The Church is not what we imagine, what we think, or what we would like Her to be. The Church is a maternal embrace, which wants to save everyone – if they want to be saved. She is not an institution, She is not an ideology; She is not a party; She is not a system; She is not a place. The Church does not judge, does not punish, does not seek followers, is not transformed, does not divide, does not tire, does not rest, does not worry about convincing unanswerably, does not subjugate and crush anyone, ever. Please take note of this. We Christians today must become people with clean experiences, we must make our life speak out loudly, despite our bog words; we should not demand a miracle insolently; we should not rush our prayer; we should listen to the other – whoever he may be; we should show forbearance during the other’s reaction, during his resistance; we should collaborate with God. We will give Him our voluntary labour, our ascesis, and He His Grace and His mercy, given that the salvation of man is a collaboration between Divine Grace and human actions. Man was created in the image of God and theosis is the purpose of His creation. The mission of the Church is the salvation of the world; the sacraments of the Church sanctify the struggling person, who, after cleansing himself, becomes enlightened and deified. That is the Orthodox theology, anthropology, ecclesiology and asceticism of our Church. Let us not look for other paths, when one is the path to salvation, theosis, perfection….»
[ From the book «Christians today», by Monk Moses of the Holy Mountain. ]
Especially suggested for study by every interested person are the following:
the book «Ecumenism and Zealotism: the two extremes»
by fr. Epiphanios Theodoropoulos
the book «The schism of zealotist old calendarism»
by fr. Basil Papadakis
the doctoral dissertation «HISTORICAL AND CANONICAL VIEW OF THE OLD CALENDAR ISSUE IN GREECE»
by the late Archbishop of Athens, Christodoulos Paraskevaides
by Michael Georgiades